Aurora looks at helping fund renovation of downtown senior housing building – Chicago Tribune

Aurora Beacon-News

Feb 28, 2022 6:00 AM

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Chicago Tribune.

The historic former Aurora Hotel, known as North Island Apartments, is at Galena Boulevard and Stolp Avenue in downtown Aurora.

The historic former Aurora Hotel, known as North Island Apartments, is at Galena Boulevard and Stolp Avenue in downtown Aurora. (Steve Lord / The Beacon-News)

The city of Aurora and owners of North Island Apartments downtown are looking at a redevelopment agreement to help renovate the low-income senior housing building.

The two entities are in the process of negotiating a redevelopment agreement, so the details are not yet in place.

But the city has set aside $400,000 in its Community Development Block Grant funds as a “placeholder” for what the actual grant will be, according to Chris Ragona, Aurora Community Development manager.

Ragona told aldermen at a City Council Public Health, Safety and Transportation Committee meeting, when discussing this year’s block grant funding, that while the $400,000 is earmarked, “all details need to be worked out” as to exactly how much the city will contribute to the North Island Apartments project.

The apartment building is in the former Aurora Hotel at Galena Boulevard and Stolp Avenue, and is 100% affordable housing for senior citizens 60 years old and older.

The subsidized complex of 55 single-bedroom apartments and one efficiency unit charges in the area of about $500 a month in rent, which is well below market rate for downtown.

Ragona made his comments after aldermen said they had heard there was some question about work that needed to be done in the building. Both Alds. Michael Saville, 6th Ward, and William Donnell, 4th Ward, said there was some concern about the property.

Ragona said there are “multiple issues going on at this property,” but said many things also had been addressed.

The one-time luxury hotel, first opened in 1917 and on the National Register of Historic Places, was redeveloped into senior housing in 1996. At the time, the City Council voted to extend a $550,000 loan to the property owner with a 1% interest rate as part of the project.

The owner also received various amounts of state and federal aid, including $750,000 for compliance with historic preservation guidelines.

Saville recalled that at the time, the council first turned down the loan, then reconsidered. It passed the council by one vote.

Ragona said the property owner was hurt by vacancies during the coronavirus pandemic. At one point, the building was between 10% and 20% vacant, but its back close to 100% occupied now, he said.

“In order to keep rents low, there is not a lot of money left over for other things,” Ragona said. “So when there are severe vacancies, it does have an effect.”

Ragona estimated city officials will come back during the summer with a more definitive agreement.